Lyndeborough takes first steps toward community power
|Published: 06-05-2023 3:10 PM
Lyndeborough officials took the first step in creating a community power program in town last week, signing a memorandum of understanding with a broker to help complete the steps necessary for preparing a plan to present to Town Meeting next year.
Bob Hayden, president of Standard Power, met with the Lyndeborough Select Board Wednesday to discuss the possibility of the town forming a committee to draft a community power plan. Several towns in the Monadnock region have completed that process, approving plans in March and moving forward this summer.
“Community power is pretty simple,” Hayden said.
Community power works by aggregating a large number of customers – in this case, town residents and residents of any towns Lyndeborough might part ner with – to negotiate for better power costs. While Eversource must negotiate its costs twice a year, those times are set and not always at the most-advantageous time to buy, Hayden explained. Under a community power model, the town can purchase power when prices are down, and lock into a long-term contract. Community power plans approved locally also provide residents with options to receive more energy from renewable sources.
Selectman Bob Howe showed enthusiasm for the prospect, noting that he himself had recently shopped for a third-party supplier due to the high energy costs.
“Everyone is interested in lowering their energy costs,” Howe said. “This seems like a good direction. It’s worked well for me, and I think it’s a good opportunity for everyone to jump in the game. I think it’s something we should look forward to.”
When asked about potential downsides, Hayden said one of them is the possibility that Eversource could secure a better deal while the town was locked into a longer-term contract.
“The probability is low, but it could happen,” Hayden said, but the program allows residents to exit and enter as they please, as often as on a monthly basis. Therefore, if other opportunities arise that are a better deal, residents can leave at any time.
Homes with solar panels and net-metering may or may not benefit from the program, Hayden said. In other towns, Standard Power has reached out to all homeowners with net-metering systems to discuss their options and what works best for them, and would continue that pattern in Lyndeborough, he said.
Every resident in town who is currently enrolled in Eversource’s default rate – which Hayden anticipated being the majority – would be enrolled in the town’s default option, unless they chose to opt out or chose another option in the plan, such as one that provided additional renewable energy sources. Hayden said there were often residents that disliked the opt-out model, but it was generally a very small minority.
Hayden said the process includes forming a community power committee, which will draft the plan. Hayden, who is also a Lyndeborough resident, volunteered to be on the committee either as a voting member or as a consultant.
Committees typically do community surveys to find residents’ priorities, hold public hearings as required by law and draft the town’s community power plan. In other communities, there have been typically four rates offered: a basic rate with only the standard green energy sources required by law, a default rate which typically has about 10 percent more green sources, a 50 percent green and a 100 percent green option.
In the towns Standard Power had brokered for in the past, even the most-expensive option was significantly lower than Eversource’s default rate, Hayden said.
The launch of a four-town community power partnership that includes the neighboring town of Wilton had a default rate of 11.47 cents per kilowatt hour, with about 33 percent renewable sources, compared to Eversource’s default rate of 20.22 cents per kilowatt hour and 23 percent renewables.
“This is the kind of thing we expect to deliver over and over, dramatic savings,” Hayden said.
The plan must be put before Town Meeting and approved by a majority vote before it can be enacted.
The Select Board agreed to sign the memorandum of understanding with Standard Power to work toward developing a community power plan. The town is seeking volunteers for a Community Power Committee to work on the draft plan. Any resident interested can contact the town offices.
Ashley Saari can be reached at 603-924-7172.